Piano Quintet in D Major, Op.45
Eduard Franck (1817-1893) was born in Breslau, the capital of the Prussian province of Silesia. He was the fourth child of a wealthy and cultivated banker who exposed his children to the best and brightest that Germany had to offer. Frequenters to the Franck home included such luminaries as Heine, Humboldt, Heller, Mendelssohn, and Wagner. His family’s financial position allowed Franck to study with Mendelssohn as a private student in Dusseldorf and later in Leipzig. As a talented pianist, he embarked upon a dual career as a concert artist and teacher for more than four decades during the course of which he held many positions. Although he was highly regarded as both a teacher and performer, he never achieved the public recognition of his better known contemporaries such as Mendelssohn, Schumann or Liszt. As fine a pianist as the first two and perhaps even a better teacher, the fact that he failed to publish very many of his compositions until toward the end of his life, in part, explains why he was not better known. Said to be a perfectionist, he continually delayed releasing his works until they were polished to his demanding standards. Schumann, among others, thought quite highly of the few works he did publish during the first part of his life.
Writing of Franck's chamber music, Wilhelm Altmann, probably the most important chamber music critic of the 20th century, comments:
“This excellent composer does not deserve the neglect with which he has been treated. He had a mastery of form and a lively imagination which is clearly reflected in the fine and attractive ideas one finds in his works.”
It is not known when Franck composed his Piano Quintet. It was published in 1882 which suggests it was written in the late 1870's or early 1880's. However, there is also some evidence that it might have been composed as early as 1853. The opening Allegro begins with an attractive, genial Mendelssohnian theme. The lovely melody gushes forth, as from a fountain, full of hope and joy. The second movement, a Presto, serves as a bustling scherzo, full of forward motion. The trio section is somewhat reminiscent of a Schubertian march militaire. This is followed by a, solemn Andante, which serves as the center of gravity for the Quintet. It begins in hushed tones and creates a religious atmosphere. For a long time the strings and the piano do not play together must respond to each other. Finally, they join forces (our sound-bite begins here) as a subdued tension builds. The exciting finale, Allegro, has for its main theme a wild, racing subject which is a virtual perpetuum mobile. This is followed a mysterious and beckoning second theme and then a joyous coda tops off this wonderful work.
As noted above, the first and only edition of this work was published in 1882. We have corrected the many serious errors which unfortunately occurred in that edition and have added rehearsal letters which were also missing. We are pleased to reintroduce this fine piano quintet after nearly a century of unavailability. It not only deserves to be heard in concert but will also be greatly valued by amateurs.